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Bahrain: UN rights experts urge release of opposition politician detained for peaceful expression

GENEVA (4 FEBRUARY 2015) – A group of United Nations independent experts* today urged the Bahraini authorities to release Sheikh Ali Salman, an opposition politician and a religious figure who was refused bail on charges that include inciting a change of regime by non-peaceful means.

Sheikh Salman is secretary-general of the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s main opposition political party. His arrest in December 2014 came shortly after he was re-elected to his post.

“The charges appear to stem from the Government’s dissatisfaction with opinions that Sheikh Salman expressed in public speeches and televised interviews, in which he called for the establishment of a democratic regime and for Government accountability,” the human rights experts said.

“If this is indeed the case, his arrest and prosecution would amount to a breach of his fundamental human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion or belief,” they said. “We have asked the Government of Bahrain to clarify the situation and to provide more information on these allegations.”

The UN experts also expressed concern at allegations that Sheikh Salman’s hearing on January 28, when he was denied bail, did not take place in accordance with due process standards. His legal representative was allegedly not allowed to examine the evidence to prepare for his defence.

“Particularly worrying are recent reports that indicate that peaceful demonstrations following his arrest were disbanded by the authorities, including through the use of force,” they said, noting that at least 150 people were reportedly arrested and around 90 were injured during the protests and in clashes with the police.

“We urge the Government of Bahrain to promptly release all those who have been detained for peaceful expression of their views,” the UN experts said.

“The recent revocation of Bahrain citizenship of an additional 72 people seems to be yet another attempt by the Government of Bahrain to clamp down on opponents,” they added.

(*) The experts: Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; and Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. For more information, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Arbitrary Detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx
Freedom of expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
Peaceful assembly: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx
Freedom of religion: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx
Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Bahrain: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/BHIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Victoria Kuhn (+41 22 917 9278 / vkuhn@ohchr.org) or Thibaut Guillet (+41 22 917 9389 / tguillet@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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